Badke Quartet

The award-winning players are impressive, despite some bad tuning

The British Badke Quartet arrests the attention of the full house audience in the Great Hall at Queen's with the opening of Bartók's Second String Quartet. This three movement work offers an uneasy context fraught with anguish and nervous tension.

I find that the odd misjudgement of tuning from time to time distracts inevitably from the quartet's unfolding of the emotional and musical narrative. The underlying rapport between the players, however, an intimate component of the quartet medium, helps to cover the cracks and the technical prowess of the individuals is always in evidence. The Badke is a relatively young quartet still, it would appear, in a process of development.

Dvorák's American quartet is altogether a more sunny proposition, written at high speed and completed within a couple of weeks. It fits neatly under the American Exiles title of this BBC R3/Festival series of chamber music concerts.

It would have to be said, however, that Dvorák was more correctly an 'émigré' and it was, after all, a career move which prompted his short American sojourn, made bearable only by his retreats to Spillville Iowa where a colony of fellow Czech ex-pats lived.

These shadows of nostalgia which permeate in particular the slow movement of the American are largely dispersed by Dvorák's basic Bohemian sense of vitality tinged perhaps by American positivity and sense of place - is that an Iowan Scarlet Tanager I hear?

The Badke respond to this characterful music by inserting the appropriate energy into the buoyant rhythms and catchy tunes although, again, the tuning of the first violinist is a little too wide of the mark sometimes for my taste.